Thursday, January 26

Prefer and Would Rather: Are They the Same?

Before we start with our topic, let’s try to answer this short exercise:

Question: What is the meaning of the contraction “ ’d ” ?

1.  You’d better go.

2.  She’d rather die.

3.  I’d seen it.

4.  I’d call her.





And the answers are… Ta-daaaa! 

1.  Had better

2.  Would rather

3.  Had seen

4.  Would call

Note: The combinations “Would better” and “Had rather” are wrong and impossible in English. Only “Had better” and “Would rather” are correct.

Now, let’s move on to our topic for today…


In everyday life, we often have to express our opinion and compare two things or two choices. 

And as you might know, the two most common expressions we use in these situations are: “prefer” and “would rather.”

Now, the question is: Are they just the same?

  • First, about their structure (or how to make sentences):


1.  Prefer Noun to Noun

2.  Prefer V+ing to V+ing

3.  Prefer to V rather than base

On the other hand...

Would rather

   1.   Would rather base than base

        Would rather to V  X

        Would rather Noun  X

  • Now, about their meaning:

If you think they are the same, I’m sorry to tell you that they are not.

Prefer” is not the same as “Would rather” because “Prefer” has a general meaning while “Would rather” has a specific meaning.

If you don’t know the difference between “specific” and “general,” you can have a review of Click: Like and Would Like: The Very Wide Gap

This topic also talks about specific and general.


Is it important to remember that “Prefer” has a general meaning while “Would rather” has a specific meaning?


For example, imagine this situation:

You are in a Chinese restaurant with your friend…

Friend: So, what would you like to eat?

You: Hmm. I’d rather have dumplings. ü

You: Hmm. I prefer dumplings. X

Note: You can also say " I'd prefer..." 

-      But –

Your friend: What’s your favorite food?

You: I prefer Italian. ü

You: I’d rather have Italian. X


As you can see, “prefer” is actually similar to “like.” They're both used to talk about your taste, your style, your favorite -- not right now but in general.

On the other hand, “would rather” is similar to “would like.” They're both used to express what we want right now or at an exact point in the future.

This is why “prefer” and “would rather” aren't the same.

If you really want to make them the same, like what I mentioned earlier, you should say: “would prefer.”

In short,

Prefer Would rather

Would prefer = Would rather


Finally, please be careful about the second and last structure of “Would rather” :

Would Rather

1.  Would rather base than base

2.  Would rather S + V (past) 

In this case, the Verb is in the past and it looks like the action is already finished, but it’s not.

For example,

I’d rather she went home.= now, not past )

I’d rather he didn’t buy that shirt.= now, not past 

If you'd like to listen to a discussion of the same topic, please go to your Cool Elf podcasts on iTunes to get the audio file. 

If you don't have iTunes, you can also download the audio file here: 

Keep on learning !

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